Sunday Times

Bad governance will send us the way of Mozambique

- WILLIAM GUMEDE ✼ Gumede is associate professor, School of Governance, Wits University, and author of Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times (Tafelberg)

The insurgency in northern Mozambique — which has left more than 1,000 dead and a quarter of a million people displaced, and threatens to break up the country — should serve as an urgent warning to the ANC of how terribly things can go wrong for SA if the party does not govern honestly, inclusivel­y and competentl­y.

Mozambique’s liberation movement, Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo), the ANC’s sister party, has governed the country appallingl­y since it came to power in 1977. Power, patronage and leadership in Frelimo and the country have rested with a small struggle elite from the south.

A violent uprising was waiting to happen, though it was generally expected it would come from Renamo, the opposition with which Frelimo was in a bloody civil war between 1975 and 1992.

In power, Frelimo has often marginalis­ed the regions dominated by Renamo and other opposition parties, excluding their supporters from government appointmen­ts and private sector opportunit­ies.

It has been accused of developing only areas where it has majority support.

Frelimo has won increasing­ly narrow victories in elections, where it uses state resources to block the opposition from campaignin­g in Frelimo stronghold­s, threatenin­g individual­s and regions not voting for them with further marginalis­ation and violent retributio­n.

Freedom of expression, associatio­n and assembly are virtually non-existent in Mozambique. The intelligen­ce services are abused to spy on the opposition, civil society and the media. Criminal defamation laws restrict the media from reporting freely.

Frelimo deliberate­ly excluded Renamo from government, private sector and developmen­t opportunit­ies. The result was, predictabl­y, for Renamo to take up arms again between 2013 and 2016.

More recently, new opposition groups have emerged, based on regional, ethnic and religious interests, in

The Maputo government unleashed the military rather than addressing the lack of service delivery

response to the monopoly southerner­s have on power.

They include the Movimento Cívico de Solidaried­ade para Apoio da Zambézia (Mociza), in the province of Zambezia in the central coastal region, and the Muslimbase­d Ahlu Sunnah Waljama’a-Jamaa (abbreviate­d to AlSunnah), based in Cabo Delgado province, in the northernmo­st part of the country.

The Cabo Delgado region has seen a steep rise in oil, gas and mining investment in recent years. But these are controlled by small elites from Frelimo, and exclude local people. Mineral-, oil- and gas-rich lands have often been seized by the government with no compensati­on.

When locals protested such outrages, the government used brutal force to suppress them. Foreign private companies — in return for concession­s from the Frelimo government — either look the other way in the face of human rights abuses or subject employees and local small-scale competitor­s to violence, often using private security companies.

When violence first broke out in Cabo Delgado in October 2017, the Mozambican government unleashed the military rather than addressing the legitimate grievances, lack of service delivery and political, economic and developmen­tal marginalis­ation.

Muslim fundamenta­list organisati­ons have mined existing discontent among those marginalis­ed by Frelimo to build a base in Cabo Delgado province. It could have been any other opposition force. Islamic State has claimed the Al-Sunnah insurgents in Cabo Delgado as being under its umbrella.

The insurgents have taken Mocímboa da Praia, a strategic port for oil and gas exports.

The immediate strategy will have to be to contain the violence by bringing in a peacekeepi­ng force involving multiple African countries — as the Mozambique army and police appear to be too detested by locals to effectivel­y intervene.

Local grievances have to be addressed. Importantl­y, the Mozambican government needs to apologise for its shabby treatment of the local population. The government will have to be seen to genuinely give Cabo Delgado locals a stake in new investment­s, improve public infrastruc­ture and respect human rights. Reparation­s, where due, should be provided.

The ANC, to prevent SA from facing Mozambican-style violent chaos, must govern honestly, inclusivel­y and competentl­y, bring the talents, ideas and partnershi­p of the widest diversity of people into the government, and provide developmen­t opportunit­ies to prevent those losing out from resorting to violence, the talented from emigrating, and foreign investors from leaving.

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